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August 7, 2009

Samir Chopra

The India-Australia relationship is a special one

Samir Chopra



I'd stand accused (and rightly so) of being an utterly naive fool were I to say that I had not anticipated some of the comments section flaming that followed on the heels of my post about Ricky Ponting. But that doesn't make it any less depressing. I'm not counting the posts here that simply criticized Ponting as a captain, batsman or whatever; I mean the posts that were pointedly personal or generalized remarks about the respective countries' teams, players and fans. The India-Australia bickerfest shows no sign of abating, and while it might provide the occasional entertaining moment, it is by and large, a very unedifying business.

Now, I have gotten into net spats myself. I have not followed the simple policy of thinking long and hard about whether I really want to post the angry retort that I've just typed up. I'm a flame war veteran, and will be the first to acknowledge that I've exploited the anonymity the Internet affords when it comes to online disagreements. But in the particular context of the India-Australia rivalry, there is a certain line I don't cross (or at least, I hope I haven't), and the reason for that is quite simple.

I have Australian friends. Most of whom are passionate cricket fans. Very knowledgeable ones. And I love discussing cricket with them. They know their cricketing history, they are very appreciative of Indian cricketers. I've lived in Australia for two years and played cricket with Australians and loved every single minute of it. This winter (the southern summer) I will travel to Sydney again and hopefully play a game again with my old team.

In these circumstances, there is no way I can bring myself to negatively generalize about the country, its cricket teams, fans or the cricketing culture. If I've ever done it in the heat of the moment, I've regretted it deeply.

So in that spirit, I'd like to make a simple suggestion as the fourth Ashes Test gets underway. I might be accused of being cheesy but I'll take that risk.

Find a way to watch a game with a fan from the Other Side. This won't be easy for Indians in India, but if you're a member of the Great Diaspora, try and find an Aussie expat and a venue for cricket watching. If you're an Aussie, you won't have a hard time finding an Indian cricket fan in your town. Find a pub that shows the game, buy a few rounds of pots, middies or schooners (or whatever the standard measure happens to be in your state) of beer, and watch a game of cricket together.

It's hard to be rude and offensive when you have to do it in person. It's easier to listen when the other person is talking face to face to you. And it's harder to generalize when there is a concrete counterexample to your generalization sitting in front of you.

The India-Australia relationship in cricket is a special one. On the cricketing field, it has provided some of the best cricket of recent years. Indian fans know their history and their game. So do the Aussies. This constant puerile flaming online does no one any credit. The rivalry is intense sure, and I've even joked about it here, but really, does everything need to get so personal?

And besides, the Ashes are on, and there is a Common Enemy to confront! If that doesn't bring us together, what can?

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by Mandar on (August 18, 2009, 5:55 GMT)

Wishful thinking, Mr. Chopra.

Posted by Venkat on (August 11, 2009, 6:54 GMT)

Lets be honest Samir, there is nothing special about the India Australia relationship. On a cricket pitch or outside. We dont have any common traditions,culture, food etc etc. The relationship over the years has at best been strained. Symonds racial slur, the attacks on Indian students(racial or otherwise) have all left indelible marks on the psyche of both Indians and Australians. I am not getting into who is right and wrong in this debate. All I am trying to convey is there is no way that the relationship is going to get better in the foreseeable future.We ll have to live with it.

Posted by MRP on (August 10, 2009, 15:23 GMT)

Right Mr. Chopra. And the seas shall part, the clouds as well, and the sun shall shine down upon the earth forvever and ever more. I understand, actually I don't, the absolut garbage pragmatasim you would like to bring to the sport. Sports as supposed to be filled with intense rivalry, maybe even bordering on obsession. The Indy-Aussie rivalry is one of those that infuses cricket with some much needed life, passion, and excitement. Adrenaline rush, if you will. The fans of both countries are a huge part of this. And I for one, who understands the game just as well, if not better, than the likes of cricinfo blog writers, such as yourself, refuse to let down my guard against any opoosition, especially the likes of Australia and Ponting, who have done much to bring a brand of nasty, brutish, uncivilized, uncouth, rude, brash cricket to the annals of the international game. Finally, yes finally, there is an international side, India, that refuses to buckle down in the face of such oppositn

Posted by Matt on (August 10, 2009, 5:22 GMT)

A great post and you bring up a good point - as an Australian, some of the best cricket I have watched has been with Indian supporters - and in person I have always found them unfailingly polite, thoughtful and informed - the most knowledgeable cricket fans in the world. But to revive the Ponting controversy, one thing I find confusing is that Ponting is perceived to be so largely responsible for Australia's much remarked upon (and in my view far less evident) bad sportsmanship on the cricket field. Apart from claiming a catch that replays drew into question (a sin, if it is a sin and not an inadvertent error, which many other cricketers have committed) what has he done wrong? I am still angry at Peter Roebuck for his piece after the Sydney test which intemperately fanned the flames of India-Australian rivalry and cast Ponting as the chief aggressor when he was really only guilty of failing to intervene as his more boorish players stepped over the line.

Posted by Si on (August 9, 2009, 11:31 GMT)

Great articles Samir. One thing I find common to both Aus and Indian supporters is the passion which translates to the love and hate of great opposition players. I feel it defines the fighting spirit of both countries but also clouds and distorts perspective.

For an Aussie it appears that India loves to pontificate on how its sees cricket should be played yet laud when their players show the same spirit, determination and perseverence as Aus.

All players are human and are not gods. Who has all of these attributes required to be acceptable to all: . great strategic planning, implementation and its adaption to suit conditions . superb bowler or batsmen . superb fielder . excellent man management skills . excellent motivator with inspiring leadership skills . family man . humble, respectful and not too proud for any activity . diplomat . engaging conversationalist and wonderful wit . well mannered and well groomed yet not vain . no sordid habits or associates

Pick 5. Vive le cricket!

Posted by faisal on (August 8, 2009, 5:09 GMT)

Raj,I admire your belligerence,a true fan should be like this,supporting his own,blindly.Whoever say there is something wrong with that may be a good disciple of the game but a bad one as a sectarian.I am a die-hard fan of aussies(though I am from Bangladesh).My prediliction for them started with Mark Waugh(as it was started with roberto baggio in football for italy).I feel devastated when they are defeated,specially in a test match,but fortunately that was very rare in the past decade or so(not in your case).I understand the frustration you are expressing beneath your blue-blooded hyperbole.Of course,you have IPL,richest cricket board but "4 world cups","16 wins in a row" and "the greatest team ever" will always be a daydream to you.

Posted by Ashtung on (August 7, 2009, 17:53 GMT)

Huh.. common enemy?? I thought the Aussies were the common enemies to the rest of the cricketing world...

Posted by Satadru Sen on (August 7, 2009, 14:03 GMT)

Eloquent and timely. The turn the India-Australia relationship has taken lately is really quite bizarre. It's been a perfect storm of random factors: Greg Chappell's stint as Indian coach, Waugh's culture of "mental disintegration," Monkeygate I and II, the growing tolerance for boors like Symonds, Hayden, Ponting, Bhajji, Sreesanth and Gambhir in the international game, the rise of the Net and its population of hyper-patriotic morons (especially among Indians, but among Australians also), the recent attacks on Indians in Australia, and so on. We need each other, people. The real enemy is China, and they don't play cricket.

Posted by Supratik on (August 7, 2009, 13:00 GMT)

I have lived in Australia my entire adolescent life and all that while the only genuine contests I have witnessed in Australia is when India toured in 2003-04 and 2007-08. I found myself filled unbridled joy when Sourav Ganguly scored that century in 2003 and unparallelled rage when Harbhajan Singh was banned for racial abuse in 2008. But deep down inside I have thoroughly enjoyed the competitiveness of the contests with neither side willing to give an inch. I find most things rather unflattering about Aussie cricket (the way they act as moral guardians of the game, sledging, parts of their gamesmanship) but the day an Australian side 'goes soft', stops hurting in defeat and stops being its own self in a game against India I will walk away very disappointed.

Posted by Aviral on (August 7, 2009, 11:19 GMT)

An excellent post indeed. The comments in the last post were all about Ponting vs Tendulkar/Lara and they did give a wrong opinion about cricket fans in India. All these years that I have followed cricket, I have always enjoyed batting of the likes of Mark Waugh and Damien Martyn who carried bats like wands, the bowling of Shane Warne and Brett Lee.The likes of Gilchrist and Steve Waugh have a huge fan base in India which is probably second only to that in Australia. Ponting, I am afraid does not command as much respect as his counterparts and that has got nothing to do with his chasing records of Sachin Tendulkar. Indian fans always both loved and adored Brian Lara who was the only threat to Tendulkar's dominance in world cricket for almost a decade and a half.Ponting is a great batsman, hands down. Nobody can take that away from him. Ponting has won more matches than Tendulkar or Lara but he failed to win one important thing, HEARTS....

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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